Being a social facilitator

Earlier this week, Neil Morrison made a good challenge to the HR/L&OD world by saying that we should be using social media to innovate what we do.

It must have been playing on my mind.

A long time ago I decided that if I was going to be a facilitator, I was going to be a bloody great facilitator. I’d like to say I’m there. Recent feedback, though, tells me I’m still quite some way off. I delivered a session on Conflict Management and I got complacent in my facilitation. I didn’t do enough explanation of core pieces of knowledge and delegated too much responsibility to the groups. This is not necessarily a bad thing, except what it meant was that the learning experience could have been much more potent and meaningful. I just let it be ok.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Not every learning session I deliver is a gold class event.

I know where I failed on that last session. I didn’t prepare the session properly. I rested on my laurels and let experience take over. My bad yo.

And today, I was being trained myself, on negotiation skills. I actually enjoyed the session, and thought the trainer (not a facilitator in this context) did a good job of sharing knowledge, his experience, and getting us to think about some practical methodologies. At the start of the session, he did the very typical house-keeping rules and said “please turn your mobile phones to silent” – which immediately got me thinking.

At Bold L&D last week, the use of technology was a core part of the learning experience. It was explicitly contracted as part of the day. People could share content at will, make notes using whatever felt more comfortable for them as a capture tool, gave live feedback about the events transpiring in the day, and there was no right or wrong about the whole thing.

I reflected on Positive Psychology in Application last year, and how I built in social media as a core part of the event. I didn’t want to keep the conversation limited to the four confines of the walls. People had permission to share their learning readily as it was happening.

And it further got me thinking about the many conversations about the need to move from traditional L&D facilitators, to curators of content and enabling social learning to proliferate organisations through online collaborative tools.

(Yes, that’s a lot of thinking that went on in the learning session. We were doing introductions and experiences for the first 20 mins so my mind was allowed to wonder. Ssh.)

Which brought me back to – what about the learning session I’m part of. That you attend. That we mandate our people go through. How do we incorporate social media as a live facilitation tool, as opposed to an add on after the event, or making content available via the LMS, or writing a blog post about experiences.

I’d wager that maybe 98% of us L&Ders just never considered that this was a possibility. I know I never have.

What do I mean by this? Well here’s what I don’t mean. I don’t mean the inclusion of TED videos or YouTube videos to illustrate a learning point. I don’t mean using Prezi as an alternative delivery aid.

I mean things like this:
– Asking the group to use their devices to immediately research a definition for a topic, which becomes part of the learning session e.g. “we’re here to talk about conflict resolution. Go online and spend 5 mins looking for a definition which you’re happy to share with the group”
– Asking the group to use a mindmap app to create the content for a group discussion e.g. “We’re going to think about how to apply what we’ve learned about the Thomas Killman Inventory. Use a mindmap app to create this and we’ll share with the group on the screen.”
– Asking the group to learn about different presentation styles on a presentation skills course e.g. “Spend 10 mins watching some YouTube videos about different presentation styles, and we’ll talk about what they meant for you, and how you could try one of those in this training.”

Right, now we’re getting innovative. Now we’re pushing the learning experience of people to be more relevant, and highly engaging. I’m not suggesting building social into every activity we do as facilitators. Like any good facilitation tool/technique/technology, it has to be purposeful, and it has to add value to the learning experience.

Last week I said that I like to play when it comes to facilitation.

Let’s really play.

(footnote. I don’t know if the term ‘social facilitation’ has been used in this context. If it hasn’t, I totally bagsy copyright on it.)